Month: February 2013

On the Inside Looking Out

On the Inside Looking Out

Finally, we’re into late February, and we’re longing for a touch of Spring.  Today, the view outside our window is one of snowy fields and leaden skies.  The sun visited for a few hours yesterday afternoon but soon disappeared behind the clouds despite heartfelt requests that it stay around. Even some of the indoor plants are refusing to cooperate.  An Amaryllis potted up with great expectations last fall has expended all its energy on long healthy leaves with nary a sign of a flower bud in the offing.

A leggy heron contemplates a leggy Amaryllis

A few of the good old reliables are still providing colour, however,  even if those colours  come from bracts and not petals.  What about “Christmas poinsettias that last into spring” – a little riff on the Julie Andrews’ song.


We’re grateful for this brilliant splash of colour indoors.  The plant was bought as part of a fund-raiser for the Chester Playhouse in early December and is still brightening up the “indoor garden” in the last week of February.

Another carry-0ver from last fall is a Christmas cactus that put forth a full cascade of blooms in November but has come back for an encore in recent weeks.  The strange white “stems” seen behind the flowers are actually roots from an orchid that has been gradually expanding its territory by sending out shoots across several other plants thriving congenially in a window nook.  Perhaps a consultation with a Master Gardener is in order.

christmas cactus close up
A Christmas cactus re-blooming in February

With a little TLC and a lot of luck, a Cyclamen like the one below will carry over for several years despite the vagaries of central heating, vacationing owners and other hazards.

An old favourite, the provenance of this Cyclamen is unknown

Forcing blooms is one of the age-old methods of hurrying spring along. The forsythia branches below,  cut about ten days ago, make a convincing statement about the forthcoming season.

The graceful lines of Forsythia branches encircle a Balinese musician

Seen in close-up, the delicate forms of these “buttercup yellow” flowers on bare stems, are a reminder of nature’s promise of spring to come.

forsythia close-up

And for Chester gardeners who are eager to start planning this year’s garden, the NSAGC is offering extra Astilbe plants at an excellent price.  All members in each club belonging to the provincial body will be eligible for one free Astilbe at this year’s convention, but members may also order additional plants (in our Club, through Sandy D).  This fast-growing fragrant plant,  “Younique Carmine”,  bears beautiful fuchsia-red blooms.  It is an early heavy bloomer, deer and rabbit resistant, and is excellent for the flower border or for planters.  For more information, contact Sandy via

Witch-hazel – Welcome in Winter

Witch-hazel – Welcome in Winter

Witch-hazel, more formally known as Hamamelis, is a deciduous shrub that produces blooms over the autumn-to-early-spring period, depending on the variety.  The Hamamelis Jelena seen below adds a welcome spot of colour to a winter woodland garden in February.

February 16 Hamamelis Jelena (1)
Witch-hazel branches frame a wintry garden scene in Chester
February 16 Hamamelis Jelena (2)
Hamamelis Jelena

The spidery tendrils of this Hamamelis shrub form clusters of fragrant flowers on bare branches, a brave appearance when temperatures hover around -6° C.  Like last year, our temperatures have been fluctuating for most of the winter but this year we have received far more snow.  In fact, we’ve experienced a series of blizzards blowing through the area about once a week during February; and each week, mere days afterward, when much of the snow has melted and the roads are clear again, the next cycle begins.  Another symptom of climate change, perhaps?

February 16 Hamamelis Jelena (3)
The most recent “blizzard” was a freak storm that prevented the club’s guest speaker from reaching Chester for the February 18th meeting. Gamely rising to the challenge, however, about 15 club members sallied forth to engage in a planning session instead, and were rewarded by hearing an interesting update on the work of the committee that is organizing this summer’s Flower Show and Tea.  The full schedule of the Show’s competitive classes will be published on the blog in March.

Another note of interest to many local gardeners is the annual plant sale curated by the Atlantic  Rhododendron and Horticultural Society. The sale includes a wide variety of rhodos and azaleas,  plus magnolias and other shrubs. Advance sale orders are available only to members but the public is invited to attend the May 11 sale in Halifax.   Details are available on the  group’s website:   http//

Iris Burke on Gardening

Iris Burke on Gardening

iris bouquetSnow and ice not withstanding, Chester Garden Club’s initial meeting of 2013, on February 18th, will feature a well-known local grower who is looking ahead to Spring!

Drawing on her professional experience, Iris Burke will provide tips for even seasoned gardeners to follow when they begin planning their own spring gardens. Please click the Current Activities tab for further details.